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Heading South: Time to Abandon the ‘Parallel Worlds’ of International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and Domestic Third Sector Scholarship?

Abstract

Since third sector research emerged as a full-fledged interdisciplinary academic field during the late 1980s, a separation has usually been maintained—in common with many other social science disciplines—between communities of researchers who are primarily concerned with the study of the third sector in rich Western countries and those who work on the third sector in the so-called developing world. Whilst internationally focused researchers tend to use the language of ‘non-governmental organizations’, those in domestic settings usually prefer the terms ‘non-profit organization’ or ‘voluntary organization’, even though both subsectors share common principles and are equally internally diverse in terms of organisations and activities. Whilst there has long been common-sense logic to distinguishing between wealthier and poorer regions of the world based on differences in the scale of human need, the ‘developed’ versus ‘developing’ category can also be criticised as being rather simplistic and unhelpfully ideological. As the categories of ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ countries become less clear-cut, and global interconnectedness between third sectors and their ideas grows, this paper argues that we need to reconsider the value of maintaining these parallel worlds of research, and instead develop a more unified approach.

Résumé

Cet article explore le problème de la distinction entre national et international en s’appuyant sur des éléments de la biographie personnelle/professionnelle de l’auteur ainsi que sur des données d’historique vie-travail collectées récemment et concernant les carrières individuelles dans le contexte du troisième secteur au Royaume-Uni. Au niveau des communautés de la recherche et de l’enseignement comme au niveau des mondes professionnels, il existe une séparation entre les deux « mondes parallèles » , national et international. C’est ce que cet article explore et identifie comme malsain. Cette dualité doit être éliminée pour trois raisons principales : (i) parce que la distinction entre national et international renvoie essentiellement à une conception coloniale du monde; (ii) parce que cette distinction réduit potentiellement le bénéfice lié à l’enrichissement et à l’apprentissage mutuels entre les deux mondes, tant au niveau de la recherche que du point de vue professionnel; et (iii) parce que le monde change en profondeur, rendant cette distinction anachronique et inutile. Pour ces raisons, cet article plaide pour une vision plus globale.

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Beitrag stützt sich auf Elemente der persönlichen/beruflichen Biographie des Autors sowie auf jüngst gesammelte persönliche und berufliche Daten in Verbindung mit individuellen Berufen im Dritten Sektor Großbritanniens und untersucht das Problem der nationalen/internationalen Kluft. Auf der Ebene von Forschungs- bzw. Lehrkreisen und Praktikern existieren zwei „parallele Welten“, die nationale und die internationale. Diese werden in dem vorliegenden Beitrag untersucht und als unvorteilhaft dargelegt. Es gibt drei wichtige Gründe, warum dieser Dualismus beseitigt werden muss: (i) weil die nationale/internationale Trennung im Wesentlichen eine Rückkehr zur kolonialen Weltanschauung ist, (ii) weil die Trennung auf der Forschungs- und Praxisebene einen potenziell nützlichen Ideenaustausch zwischen den beiden Welten und den Gewinn neuer Erkenntnisse hindert und (iii) weil sich die Welt ständig auf derart fundamentale Weise verändert, dass eine derartige Unterscheidung anachronistisch und nutzlos ist. Aus diesen Gründen spricht sich der Beitrag für eine integriertere Anschauung aus.

Resumen

Basándonos en elementos de la biografía personal/profesional del autor, y en datos históricos sobre vida-trabajo recopilados recientemente que se refieren a carreras individuales en el contexto del sector terciario del Reino Unido, el presente documento explora el problema de la división local/internacional. Existe una separación entre dos “mundos paralelos” de lo local y lo internacional a nivel de las comunidades de investigación/enseñanza y a nivel de los mundos profesionales. Todo esto se explora en el presente documento, y se identifica como no saludable. Existen tres razones principales por las que es necesario superar este dualismo: (1) porque la división local/internacional es esencialmente un retorno a la visión colonial del mundo; (ii) porque la separación impide potencialmente un útil intercambio y aprendizaje entre los dos mundos a nivel de la investigación y la práctica; y (iii) porque el mundo está cambiando de forma profunda lo que hace que dicha distinción sea anacrónica e inútil. Por estos motivos, el presente documento reivindican una visión más integrada.

摘要:

吸收作者个人/专业传记的元素,以及最近收集的英国第三领域上下文的个人职业经历相关毕生职业历史数据,本文探索了国内/国际分歧的问题。研究/教学社区层面和从业者世界层面的两个国内和国际的“平行世界”之间存在隔离。本文探讨了这些隔离,并将其确定为不健康。克服本双重性主要有三个主要原因:(i) 由于国内/国际隔离主要是殖民世界观的复古;(ii) 由于隔离阻止了研究和实践层面的两个世界的潜在有用交叉学习;以及 (iii) 由于世界正在出现的剧烈变革导致此类时代错误和无益的差别。出于这些原因,本文支持更加综合的观点。

要約

本論文では、英国の第三セクターにおける個々のキャリアに係る最近収集した職歴のデータ、著者の個人的/専門的な経歴を用いて、国内/国際分割の問題を調査する。研究/教育コミュニティと開業医における国内外の2つの「別世界」は分断されている。そして本論文での調査では不十分であると認識できる。この二元論を克服するには 3 つの主な理由がある。 (i) 国内/国際の分割は本質的に植民地世界観の逆行である、(ii) 調査と慣習のレベルにおける2つの世界での便利な交流と学習を妨げる可能性がある。そして (iii) 世界は時代錯誤と役に立たないものの区別させる深層の方法が変化しているためである。これらの理由から、本論文では統合された観点から主張する。

الخلاصة

يستخلص من عناصر سيرة شخصية/مهنية لمؤلف، وعلى جمع البيانات في الآونة الأخيرة تاريخ عمل على مدى الحياة يتعلق بالمهن الفردية في سياق القطاع الثالث في المملكة المتحدة، يستكشف هذا البحث مشكلة الإنقسام الداخلي/الدولي. هناك فصل بين اثنين من “ عالمين موازييين “من المحلية والدولية على مستوى المجتمعات البحثية/التعليمية وعلى مستوى عالمين من الممارسين. يتم إستكشاف هذا في البحث، وتحديده على أنه غير صحي. هناك ثلاثة أسباب رئيسية لماذا يجب التغلب على هذه الثنائية: (i) لأن الإنقسام الدولي/المحلي هو في جوهره ردة إلى النظرة الاستعمارية،(ii) لأن الإنفصال يعوق الذي يمكن أن يكون مفيد للتلقيح و التعلم بين العالمين في مستوى البحث والممارسة، و (iii) لأن العالم يتغير بطرق عميقة مما يجعل مثل هذا التمييز ينطوي على مفارقة تاريخية وغير مفيدة. لهذه الأسباب، يجادل البحث لمزيد من الرؤية المتكاملة.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This paper was written for the workshop on ‘Theoretical Variations for Voluntary Sector Organizing: Topping Off Old Bottles with New Wine’ held at Queen’s University, Canada, October 19–20 2012. I wish to thank the organisers for the opportunity to present this work in a preliminary form, and for many useful comments on the arguments from participants. Interview data to which this paper refers was collected during research that was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Grant Reference RES-155-25-0064.

  2. 2.

    The term ‘third world’ is one of the longest established of these categories. Whilst it has mainly negative connotations today, it was initially coined with more positive associations. Its origin during the early 1950s is associated with the French demographer Alfred Sauvy, who drew a comparison with the idea of the ‘third estate’ (the people) during the French revolution. Like the third estate, Sauvy argued that the third world was exploited and ignored, but now wanted political and economic power. The term provided the title of anthropologist and sociologist Worsley (1964) book that proved influential among those who viewed the third world as an arena of progressive struggle against both Western and Soviet forms of oppression.

  3. 3.

    The terminological differences were intriguing too, because they seemed arbitrary. Why was a UK third sector organisation that worked internationally known as an ‘NGO’, while one that similar in terms of organisation, structure and values but worked at home was called a ‘voluntary organisation’?

  4. 4.

    Both the BRIC and the MINT acronyms were coined by British economist Jim O’Neill, former chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

  5. 5.

    Personal communication from Professor Yuko Suda, Department of Sociology, Toyo University, Japan.

  6. 6.

    One of the few successful academic collaborations between the fields of social policy and development studies researchers was undertaken by Ian Gough and Geof Wood and resulted in the book Insecurity and Welfare Regimes in Asia, Africa and Latin America (Cambridge University Press 2004).

  7. 7.

    This hostility replayed earlier comments in British press, where the Daily Mail newspaper used the headline: ‘Get back to the third world” when it learned of Oxfam’s UK poverty programme (Whyte 1996).

  8. 8.

    A more detailed discussion of this data is contained in Lewis (2011).

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Correspondence to David Lewis.

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Lewis, D. Heading South: Time to Abandon the ‘Parallel Worlds’ of International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) and Domestic Third Sector Scholarship?. Voluntas 25, 1132–1150 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-014-9438-1

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Keywords

  • Third sector research
  • Knowledge communities
  • International development
  • NGOs